Cordata Weekly Bulletin


Good Monday morning, Cordata!

I had the opportunity to watch my nephew graduate from high school this weekend. Among all of the photos and memorabilia, he had an envelope with a note written by his 11-year-old self, to be opened "NOT before your graduate from high school!" We all enjoyed listening to him read his list of favorites and the events he'd "never forget" from back in 5th grade. It was a reminder of the dramatic changes kids go through in the years that lead up to high school graduation, but also the ways that their elementary foundations stick with them. Ok, maybe I got a little emotional as my only nephew reached this milestone. But it made me think of all of you, and the foundations you are helping our Cordata students to develop. Their character, their interests and passions, their curiosities . . . these are all developing under your care. In this busy end-of-the-school-year, don't forget to reflect on the beginning of the year. These kids have come a long way, and have done a lot of growing under your watch and care!
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The week ahead - 5/20 - 5/24

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The SEL Calendar, from now through the end of the year, focuses on continuing your class meetings, solving problems as they arise. Those of you using Caring School Communities as your key resource should continue to pull from the Topic Weeks to guide your SEL instruction.

Upcoming Dates

  • May 21 - 2:45-4:00 - Choice Tech Meeting (this can be a choice towards your 2.5 choice hours, cert staff)
  • May 23 - 12:45-2:30 - Talent Show Auditions in the music room
  • May 23 - 1:00-2:00 SGC - K and 4th grade meet separately to look at grade level data
    May 23 - 2:00-3:00 SGC - K meets with 1st grade; 4th meets with 5th grade
    May 23 - 2:00-3:00 - SGC - 3rd grade meets to look at grade level data
  • May 24 - Bike Rodeo, grades 3, 4 and 5
  • May 27 - DESSA window closes
  • May 28-30 - Cindy Corzine supporting PA assessments in primary
  • May 29 - 6 pm - Special PTA meeting
  • May 30 - Staff Picnic Potluck, organized by Sunshine Committee
  • May 30 - 1:00-2:00 - SGC - 1st and 2nd grade meet separately to look at grade level data
    May 30 - 2:00-3:00 - SGC - 1st meets with 2nd grade; 3rd meets with 4th grade
  • May 30 - Teachers Theater stories due to Emily!!
  • May 31 - 8:45 - Assembly - TALENT SHOW!
  • June 7 - 5th grade track meet
  • June 13 - 1:00-1:30 - Ice Cream Social for staff
  • June 13 - 2:00-3:00 - SGC - 2nd meets with 3rd grade; 5th meets individually to look at grade level data
  • June 14 - Teacher's Theater!
  • June 19 - Field Day - this is tentatively being planned with the support of Cornwall Church volunteers . . . much more info to come. If you have ideas, send them to Analisa.
  • June 20 - last day of school - morning assembly followed by all-school recess and yearbook signing
  • June 20 - Last day of school, and All Staff CELEBRATION at Dan's house! (Thanks, Dan, for hosting our crew for a potluck!)

Other News and Information

  • As I mentioned in our last bulletin, our PTA met last week, and one topic on the agenda was the future of the PTA. Our PTA has long been run by a few very hard-working volunteers, and they are finding that the model is too difficult to continue, because people shy away from taking board positions. This isn't unusual - several other schools in Bellingham have experienced this, and made the shift away from a PTA to a different form of parent organization. We will follow Birchwood's lead, and set up a Friends of Cordata group that can serve a similar function, without some of the fees and logistics. On May 29 at 6 pm, we will be holding a special PTA meeting. Please consider attending to be a part of the decision making, and to support this wonderful group of volunteers. Let me know if you can attend so we can plan ahead. We will be voting to officially dissolve the PTA (a requirement from the state PTA organization) and to donate the fund balance to the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation, who will from now on support our parent group by managing the financial accounts.

  • Teachers, as you know, there has been an adhoc committee looking at foundational literacy instruction, and making some recommendations to Dr. Baker and the executive team about next steps with foundational literacy, including phonics, word study, and handwriting. At this time, members of the committee plan to meet to develop a scope and sequence for phonics/foundational literacy instruction in k through 2nd grade, using resources that already exist in our district. There are also some changes in Handwriting Without Tears, in that the district will no longer purchase the HWT workbooks, though we will still be using the HWT model.
    This is important work that will complement the Reading and Writing Workshop models (Units of Study) that are core instruction in all elementary classrooms. While this will focus on primary grades, it has raised some questions about word study, spelling, and handwriting in the intermediate grades as well, and we expect that conversations will continue into the future. Check in with Sarah, Quinn, Michelle or Analisa if you'd like to learn more about the adhoc committee discussions.

  • Look through your photos! This is the week to get your best ones into the T drive so that Randy can put together a fantastic end of year slide show. And class stories for Teacher's Theater are due to Emily on the 30th!

In closing . . .

How do we teach vocabulary?

One of the topics that the foundational literacy adhoc committee looked into was vocabulary development. There is no single curriculum or approach that is a "magic bullet" when it comes to vocabulary learning, but we know that it is an incredibly important component of developing language and literacy skills! This article speaks to the connection between vocabulary learning and reading comprehension.

The full article can be found here: What Research Says About Closing the Vocabulary Gap, and an excerpt with some key ideas is below.

" . . . The research shows a strong relationship between vocabulary size and reading comprehension level; moreover, that relationship grows stronger as students progress through school (Snow, Porche, Tabors, & Harris, 2007). Because students who know many words can comprehend what they read, they continue to increase their vocabularies and content knowledge through reading. The opposite holds true for students with limited vocabularies, especially English language learners (Blachowicz, Fisher, Ogle, & Watts-Taffe, 2006).

Building vocabulary is more difficult than it might seem. Vocabulary signifies more than a list of words—it is a proxy for content knowledge. Learning new words often involves learning new ideas and information; memorizing definitions is not the same thing (Stahl & Fairbanks, 1986). Researchers concur that to "own" a new word for the long term, the learner must see and use the word multiple times in several contexts. The question is, How can teachers accomplish this goal efficiently?

Researchers have studied a variety of strategies to help students expand their vocabularies. In one such study, Beck and McKeown (2007) exposed kindergarten and 1st grade students to read-aloud trade books chosen because they included sophisticated words that struggling readers would be unlikely to learn on their own. The students had opportunities to discuss the books, hear the words explained in the context of the story, and hear the words used over the next few days. They learned more words than students in the comparison group, who participated in traditional read-alouds.

Carlo and colleagues (2004) tested the effects of a vocabulary enrichment intervention in which engaging texts and activities were used to teach 5th grade students strategies for analyzing new words using context clues and knowledge of root words and cognates. Students read newspaper articles, diaries, and histories about immigrants' experiences followed by daily work in small groups on such tasks as filling in missing words, making word associations, and playing charades. In classes randomly assigned to the intervention, both English language learners and native English speakers outscored comparison students on several measures of vocabulary development, including depth of knowledge and understanding of multiple meanings.

No one strategy can do the job alone, however. Because different kinds of words require different approaches— and students' needs vary by age, background knowledge, native language, and motivation—teachers must know and be adept in selecting among multiple strategies (Blachowicz et al., 2006). . . . "